The emergence of players RP Singh, Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, Mohammad Kaif and Praveen Kumar is a testimony that cricket is no longer the domain of metros and major cities of India. Among all, Uttar Pradesh is perhaps the brightest shining star in the Indian cricket sector as nearly four to five players of the state are either a part of the nation team or are in the reckoning. JPN
However, it was a dream which did not come true overnight. It took more than seven decades to transform the dream into reality. Despite some outstanding performances, several UP cricket players could not be inducted in the Indian squad due to the dominance of Mumbai, Delhi and South India.
The Uttar Pradesh cricket team was called as the United Provinces when it was created in 1934. Due to being a vast Indian populated state—UP—produces a huge number of cricket crazy youths who sweat out on the nets with a hope of getting a chance to play for Team India. Some had consistently performed one year after the other in the various board trophies without getting the desired appreciation of their talent.
Though some of fortunate ones were successful in making their debut, but their international career was cut short by the limited opportunities provided to them by BCCI to prove worth.
Gopal Sharma, RP Singh senior and Gyandendra Pandey were among the UP cricketers who showed their glistering glimpse but diminished early.
Gopal Sharma, born on August 3, 1960 hails from Kanpur, played 5 Test and 11 ODIs for the India cricket team. Gopal was the first person from Uttar Pradesh Indian who represented Indian cricket team in the post-independence era.
Gopal was a member of the Indian selection committee representing Central Zone in 2004-05 season. But this famous off spinner was overshadowed by the spinners like Ravi Shastri, Maninder Singh, Arshad Ayub, and Shivlal Yadav.
The second in the list was Gyanendra Pandey, born on August 12, 1972 in Lucknow made his debut in Pepsi Cup in 1998-99. Having started his career in 1989 he played steadily from UP Ranji Trophy team, but only began to make his mark around 1996-97. In two consecutive seasons he scored more than 400 runs which brought him into national reckoning. Pandey, a left hand batsman, had just played two ODIs for India.
Ashish Winstein Zaidi who was also known as Amar Akbar Anthony for his out of the ordinary name was a star of the Uttar Pradesh Cricket team.
However, the scenario changed after UP won the Ranji trophy for the first time in 2005-06. Mohammad Kaif became an overnight star and played for India in more than 100 ODIs. Though he managed to made an impact in the 50 over format of the game, but could never come good in the Test matches. Overall, he has represented India in 13 Test matches and 125 ODIs.
It was Kaif who opened the floodgate for UP cricketers in the Indian side. Soon RP Singh, Piyush Chawla, Suresh Raina and Praveen Kumar were also provided the opportunity to represent the national squad.
Adding a feather to UP’s cap, Raina was also provided to lead the national side in Zimbabwe and West Indies. RP Singh’s contribution in helping India win the first World T-20 CUP cannot be forgotten. Praveen Kumar proved his worth in the recently concluded England tour and Chawla too has made valuable contribution whenever given a chance to represent the country.
The emergence of players RP Singh, Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, Mohammad Kaif and Praveen Kumar is a testimony that cricket is no longer the domain of metros and major cities of India. Among all, Uttar Pradesh is perhaps the brightest shining star in the Indian cricket sector as nearly four to five players of the state are either a part of the nation team or are in the reckoning.